You can never be “too safe”

You’ve just listed your home with an agent, For Sale sign in the yard, and you get a knock at the door from a stranger wanting to look at your home.  STOP!  Never, I repeat Never, let a stranger into your home in this manner.  Yes, your home is for sale but, there are proper channels for buyers to view your home.

According to realtracs.com when your property is marketed with an agents help, you do not have to allow strangers into your home.  Agents will pre-screen and accompany qualified prospects through your property.

So, if your ever faced with this situation you can kindly let the person(s) know that he/she should contact the agent for a showing.  You can never be “too safe.”

 

Melanie Dillon

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Why should I refinance?

Positive statements by the Federal Reserve Board regarding the pace of future hikes in interest rates and the release of weak employment data have served to bring rates down moving into the spring selling season. This unexpected move in rates give Americans a unique opportunity to save money through refinancing or making their new dream home more affordable. From mid-September of last year to early-April of this year, Freddie Mac has reported that average rates on a 30-year fixed loan have moved down slightly more than one-half of one percent. This amounts to a savings of more than $1,500 annually for a $300,000 mortgage and $45,000 over the life of the mortgage. Recently, Black Knight Financial Services found that, in light of recent interest rate decreases on home loans, 7.1 million Americans would currently benefit by refinancing. In addition, Zillow has reported that 5.2 million renters are planning to purchase a home in the next year. Sources: Freddie Mac, Zillow & HousingWire

Fifty-four percent of for-sale listings of existing homes are within reach for a median-income household in the U.S., according to a new analysis by realtor.com®. Their analysts used the national median income of $51,801 to determine how many of the site’s 1.6 million listings would be affordable to an average family, while also assuming a 20 percent down payment and 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. The monthly payment couldn’t exceed 28 percent of the family’s income. “So far this year we are hearing from home shoppers that finding a home that meets their needs or budget is the biggest impediment to buying,” says Jonathan Smoke, realtor.com®’s chief economist. “The good news from this data is that more than half of the listings nationwide are by definition affordable.” Realtor.com® analysts also found that existing homes tended to be much more affordable than new homes. In February, realtor.com® had more than 7,700 actively selling new-home communities listed, with an inventory of nearly 57,000 homes available for sale. Only 21 percent of those new homes, however, were deemed affordable. Source: realtor.com®

As Millennials begin to enter the homebuying market in larger numbers, homes will get a little smaller, laundry rooms will be essential, and home technology will become increasingly prevalent, said panelists during an International Builders’ Show press conference on home trends and Millennials’ home preferences. NAHB Assistant Vice President of Research Rose Quint predicted that the growing numbers of first-time homebuyers will drive down home size in 2015. Three million new jobs were created in 2014, 700,000 more than the previous year “and the most since 1999,” Quint said. At the same time, regulators have reduced downpayment requirements for first-time homebuyers from five percent to three percent and home prices have seen only moderate growth. “All these events lead me to believe that more people will come into the market, and as younger, first-time buyers, they will demand smaller, more affordable homes,” Quint said. “Builders will build whatever demand calls out for.” Of the Top 10 features mentioned by home builders, four have to do with energy efficiency: Low-E windows, Energy Star-rated appliances and windows and programmable thermostats. The top features: a master bedroom walk-in closet and a separate laundry room.

Source: National Mortgage Professional

Rent is HOW MUCH?!

The rent may indeed be “too darn high,” but it’s only going up, according to a new report from online real estate listing service Zillow. According to new analysis from Zillow, U.S. renters paid $441 billion in rent in 2014, up $20.6 billion from 2013’s total of $420.4 billion. That represents an increase of 4.9%. Accounting for an estimated 770,000 additional U.S. renters in 2014, the average renter household spent $26 more per month in 2014 than in 2013, for a total of $312 more paid in rent this year compared to last, Zillow said. “Over the past 14 years, rents have grown at twice the pace of income due to weak income growth, burgeoning rental demand, and insufficient growth in the supply of rental housing,” said Zillow Chief Economist Stan Humphries. “This has created real opportunities for rental housing owners and investors, but has also been a bitter pill to swallow for tenants, particularly those on an entry-level salary and those would-be buyers struggling to save for a down payment on a home of their own.” Humphries said that increases in rent are only going to continue. “Next year, we expect rents to rise even faster than home values, meaning that another increase in total rent paid similar to that seen this year isn’t out of the question,” he said. “In fact, it’s probable.” Source: HousingWire

Most younger renters think owning is a more sensible housing choice for financial reasons, according to Fannie Mae’s National Housing Survey. Seventy-six percent of young renters, defined in this study as between 18 and 39, think owning makes more sense because they’re protected against rent increases, and owning can be a good investment over the long-term. “However, a large majority of young renters have remained pessimistic over the last few years about their ability to get a home loan; in contrast, younger owners have grown more optimistic,” says Sarah Shahdad, strategic planning analyst at Fannie Mae. “Demographic differences between younger renters and younger owners may explain part of the gap in attitudes.” Younger owners are more likely to fall in the higher end of the age range, earn more, and be employed full-time compared with younger renters, Shahdad notes. “The widening of that same gap during the last few years suggests that confidence in one’s ability to get a home loan is growing primarily among those who have already met financial requirements,” she notes. Young renters consider down payments and credit scores to be the top obstacles of getting a home loan. Also, the presence of student loans heightens the difficulty, they feel. But, young renters say, one day, they still plan to buy. “Enhanced housing education and alternative approaches to housing and savings may help renters fulfill their housing aspirations in a financially sustainable way,” Shahdad says. “Educational resources and tools may help renters make more informed decisions about their housing choices and begin managing their finances early and efficiently in order to fulfill their goals.” Also, promoting alternative paths to home ownership may help. Shahdad notes that about three-quarters of younger renters and owners said a lease-to-own arrangement would make renting more desirable to them since it would lead to home ownership. Source: Fannie Mae

Americans 55 years old and older are increasingly expected to begin trading residences as they near retirement, and that has many housing analysts and homebuilders predicting a surge in active-adult homes and communities that appeal to seniors. Homebuilders PulteGroup, Lennar, and Toll Brothers are reporting higher sales in this segment. Builders also are trying to lure this age group with multigenerational amenities, such as a separate private entrance, bedroom, bathroom, and eat-in kitchen attached to a traditional home. The National Association of Home Builders’ 55+ Housing Market Index also reflects greater optimism in the 55-plus housing market. This year, the index reached its highest second-quarter reading since it began in 2008, and it posted its 11th consecutive quarter of year-over-year gains. “One of the factors contributing to the positive signs in the 55+ housing market is the slow but steady increase in existing-home sales in the past several months,” says NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “The 55+ market is strongly driven by consumers being able to sell their existing homes at a favorable price in order to buy or rent in a 55+ community.” Source: Investors Business Daily

10 Ways to Lower Your Heating Costs

1. TAKE THE HEAT DOWN A NOTCH

Each degree you lower your thermostat for a period of at least eight hours can make your heating bill 1 percent cheaper, theEnergy Departmentestimates.

2. INSTALL A PROGRAMMABLE THERMOSTAT

Afraid you won’t remember to turn down the heat before you go to bed or leave the house? A programmable thermostat controls the temperature 24/7. Resist the temptation to mess with the settings when you get chilly, lest you eat into the savings. Grab a sweater instead

3. REDUCE DRAFTS

You can save as much as 30 percent on energy bills by covering up drafty windows and doors and sealing air leaks, according to the Department of Energy. Drafts can affect the thermostat reading, too, so these simple fixes may solve more than one winter energy challenge.

4. INSTALL STORM DOORS AND WINDOWS

This is a more permanent way to cut down on drafts that enter the house through inefficient doors and windows. The home improvement siteImproveNetalleges this project can increase your home’s energy efficiency by 45 percent and lays out the costs, pros, and cons.

5. CHANGE FURNACE FILTERS

Dirty furnace filters can restrict airflow, making the heating system work harder, which in turn can boost your bill. Filters should be cleaned or replaced monthly during the cold season. Keeping tabs on the furnace filter can also reduce medical bills. The more efficient the filter, the more allergens and debris it will catch and prevent from circulating in the air.

6. RUN FANS IN REVERSE

Did you know that changing the direction of a ceiling fan could shave as much as 10 percent off your heating bill? Good Housekeeping explains that flipping a switch on the fan turns the traditional counterclockwise rotation that produces a cool breeze to a clockwise rotation that pushes the warm air back into circulation

7. TURN DOWN THE WATER HEATER

The Simple Dollar points out that the standard setting for a hot water heater is 140 degrees Fahrenheit, and you can lower energy costs 6 to 10 percent by lowering the temperature to 120 degrees, which is still plenty warm. Other options, such as a tankless or solar water heater, can reduce the cost of heating water even more but require an initial investment of at least several hundred dollars.

8. KEEP MAINTENANCE IN MIND

Just like any other major appliance, afurnaceneeds regular tune-ups. Keeping it clean and properly adjusted helps it run efficiently and prolongs its lifespan. Check with your utility company or furnace manufacturer — many offer free annual inspections.

9. USE CAULK AND WEATHERSTRIPPING

Windows and doors aren’t the only spots where warm air leaks out of the house. Keep an eye out for places where two types of building materials meet — corners, chimneys, and around pipes and wires. These energy suckers can be plugged up with caulk and weatherstripping.

10. SEAL THE DUCTS

The Energy Department warns that about 20 percent of heated air can escape from the ductwork in a house. Properly sealed ductwork also better protects against dust and mold. Note that sealing ducts is not the same as cleaning them. In fact, many studies have shown that cleaning the ductwork is unnecessary unless there is an air quality issue.

Excerpt from MSNnews.com

Real Estate News

Builder confidence in the new-home market rose to its highest reading in nearly 9 years, according to the latest reading from the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index. September marked the fourth consecutive month that builder confidence has been on the rise. “Since early summer, builders in many markets across the nation have been reporting that buyer interest and traffic have picked up, which is a positive sign that the housing market is moving in the right direction,” says NAHB Chairman Kevin Kelly. For the new-home market, builder confidence rose to a level of 59 in September, according to the index. Any reading above 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as “good” than “poor.” The seasonally adjusted index measures builder perceptions of the single-family new-home market on home sales and sales expectations for the next six months, as well as builders’ perceptions of buyer traffic. All three of the index components in September posted gains, with current sales conditions and traffic of prospective buyers rising to 63 and 47, respectively. Expectations for future sales also rose two points to 67. Source: National Association of Home Builders

Some home buyers are making an unusual request: They’re asking to spend the night at a home before they make an offer on it. HGTV’s “Sleep On It,” which follows potential buyers as they stay overnight in two homes with the sellers’ approval before deciding which one to buy, hasn’t seemed to spark a national trend. But it has prompted such proposals to surface more often, real estate professionals say. The sleep-overs can help buyers gain a better perspective on what it actually would feel like to live at the home, whether the kitchen is the right size, the noisy neighbors are too distracting, or the water pressure just isn’t right. Corlie Ohl, a real estate professional at Citi Habitats in New York City, recalls a client who requested to take a shower in an $865,000 apartment he was considering purchasing. He wanted to make sure the place had adequate water pressure. “It’s the strangest request I’ve ever experienced in my life for someone who wanted to purchase an apartment,” Ohl says. “The seller said, ‘Yeah, I guess, as long as he brings his own towel.” Contracts are a good idea for any buyer sleep-overs to protect both parties from liabilities, such as loss of personal belongings, say real estate professionals. A couple in Boulder, Colo., were staying at a condo when they decided to check out the condo’s parking area at night. But, “as they exited the elevator, they were abruptly confronted by two police officers, weapons drawn,” says real estate professional Bob Gordon. The neighbors had thought they were burglars. But the incident prompted the couple to put in an offer immediately on the home, “knowing the neighbors would be concerned enough to call police,” Gordon says.
Source: US News and World Report

Fall To Do List

As the weather cools down, our thoughts turn to visions of … leaf piles, broken gutters, and stopped-up chimneys. Or rather, how to deal with such household chores before the winter sets in. Here are 10 jobs that should top your priority list this fall.

1. Change batteries in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. It’s a great idea to do this on the day Daylight Savings Time ends. Check the expiration on your fire extinguisher and review your escape plan with your family as well.

2. Inspect your fireplace. Have the chimney cleaned professionally, clear out any leftover ashes from last year from disposal chute if you have one, fix cracked glass doors.

3. Get the garage into shape. Gather up summer items such as lawn chairs, umbrellas, garden tools, and beach toys, pack them securely and store them neatly. Move snow shovels, snow sports equipment, and other winter tools to the front of your storage areas so they are easily accessible.

4. Ready the garden for winter. If you’re in colder climes, decide if you’ll be feeding the birds, and get your feeders cleaned and filled. Empty hoses and pack them away. If your winter weather is more temperate, you may want to prepare for winter planting of garlic, leeks, onions, lettuce, and potatoes.

5. Clear the deck. Clean, repair, cover and store your patio furniture and barbecue to prevent weather damage.

6. Get to the gutters. Clean and inspect them. Make sure your downspouts are clear and that you replace any broken extensions so that water is properly diverted away from your homes foundation.

7. Prepare the furnace. Check that it’s working properly before you really need it — you don’t want to be waiting for the repair service when the temperature’s dropped into the single digits. Better yet, get a professional cleaning and inspection.

8. Set up humidifiers. If you don’t have a central humidifier, pull out your portables and get ready to use them once you turn the heat on. Dry air not only harms your lungs and skin; it can also damage wood furniture, which can become brittle and crack.

9. Consider an exterior paint job. Fall is a great time of year to freshen your home’s exterior paint, with lower temperatures and low humidity.

10. Install a programmable thermostat. It doesn’t have to be as fancy [or expensive] as the Nest. Preset temperatures for different times of day and save yourself some money on heating bills — plus ensure you’ve got a cozy home to return to.

My credit score is what?!?!

The creator of one of the most widely used and influential credit scores, FICO, said that the latest version of its score would no longer weigh medical debts — which account for about half of all unpaid collections on consumers’ credit reports — as heavily as it did in previous iterations. The newer FICO scores, available this fall, will also ignore any overdue payments that have already been made. Previously, the scores factored paid and unpaid collections equally, though it ignored amounts under $100. FICO credit scores, which have become consumers’ financial passport to just about everything from rental apartments to most loans such as mortgages, are based on the information in an individual’s credit reports, which are generated by the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. The scores are based on a 300- to 850-point scale. Because of the new scoring model, individuals with a median score of 711 — and an otherwise clean credit history, except for unpaid medical debts — may see their FICO score rise by 25 points. As a result, many consumers may qualify for more attractive interest rates on various loans, potentially resulting in thousands of dollars in savings. “It probably doesn’t mean the difference between an approval and a denial, but it can mean the difference in a more advantageous rate,” said John Ulzheimer, a credit expert at Credit Sesame, a consumer credit website, and a former FICO employee. But consumers whose credit files are tarnished only by unpaid medical debts that went to collection agencies — but were ultimately settled or paid — are likely to see a much greater increase in their scores. “That is when you could expect to see your score go through the roof,” said Mr. Ulzheimer.  Source: NY Times — Not sure where your score puts you with regard to being eligible for a home purchase or refinance? A quick and simple analysis may let you know how to get in position to take advantage of these upcoming changes. Just contact me and I will help you get started.

When it comes to smart homes, consumers are more interested in their security features than the gadgets that control the homes’ appliances. New research by Icontrol Networks, a home technology company, shows that 90 percent of 932 respondents recently surveyed say that security is one of the most important reasons for using a smart-home system. In fact, 67 percent rank it the No.1 reason, and the majority of consumers say security is a must-have in any home automation, according to Icontrol’s 2014 State of the Smart Home Report. Fire and carbon monoxide alarms, as well as gas leak alarms, were listed as top security features, according to the survey. “For now, safety and security are driving initial mass market adoption,” says Jim Johnson, executive vice president of Icontrol Networks. “But the convenience associated with a connected home will likely play a greater role as consumers realize how much easier automation makes their lives.” Seventy-eight percent of respondents also ranked energy management as one of the top features that matter most to them in a smart home. HVAC heating and cooling management was cited as the most important feature in helping to reduce utility bills. Nearly 43 percent of respondents say they’d be interested in replacing their thermostat with a “smart thermostat,” one that automatically adjusts when the home is occupied. Source: Builder

International buyers continue to flock to the U.S. to purchase and invest in properties. Favorable exchange rates, affordable home prices, and rising affluence abroad is driving interest, according to the 2014 Profile of International Home Buying Activity conducted by the National Association of Realtors®. From April 2013 through March 2014, total international sales are estimated at $92.2 billion, a rise from $68.2 billion from the previous period, NAR reports. Twenty-eight percent of Realtors® reported working with international clients this year. “We live in an international marketplace; so while all real estate is local, that does not mean that all property buyers are,” says Steve Brown, NAR’s president. “Foreign buyers are being enticed to U.S. real estate because of what they recognize as attractive prices, economic stability, and an incredible opportunity for investment in their future.” International buyers are coming to the United States from all over the world, but the highest interest in U.S. property is being driven by Canada, China, Mexico, India, and the United Kingdom, which accounted for about 54 percent of all reported international transactions. Canadian residents continue to have the largest share of U.S. purchases, but dropped their share from 23 percent in 2013 to 19 percent in 2014. Buyers from China hold the lead in dollar volume, purchasing an estimated $22 billion with an average sale cost of $590,826, according to the NAR study. China was also the fastest-growing source of transactions, now accounting for 16 percent of all purchases, up 4 percent from last year. In 2014, nearly 60 percent of reported international transactions were all cash, compared to only one-third of domestic purchases. The survey also revealed that 42% of foreign buyers use their U.S. home as a primary residence. Source: NAR 

 

Information courtesy of Franklin American Mortgage

 

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